By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half
HUDSON – Callie Bauer likes to make pros and cons lists.
When the Hudson High School athlete began making a list of whether she should commit to Western Kentucky University on a volleyball scholarship offer, she couldn’t find any cons.
“There are literally no cons for Western,” she said. “It checks off all the boxes. There’s no place I’d rather be going. … It was the only place that gave me intense butterflies.”
Bauer is only a junior, so Western Kentucky will have to wait on her volleyball skills. For now, they are on display in southeast Michigan and the Lenawee County Athletic Association. And, those skills keep getting better. As a sophomore, she was a unanimous all-LCAA first-team selection, selected as the Lenawee County Player of the Year and made the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association’s Division 3 first-team all-state squad.
For the Tigers last season, Bauer had 712 kills and hit .396 on 1,353 attempts. She also had 446 digs and 415 assists. For Hudson, she’s known as a powerful outside hitter. In college, the 5-foot-11 Bauer expects to transition to setter.
“It’s sort of funny that around here people know her for hitting, but she’s going to college as a setter,” said her mother, Tricia Bauer. “Who knows? Maybe when she gets to Western Kentucky, they’ll see her as a hitter.”
Her mother, who played on Hanover-Horton’s Class C championship team in 1989, was Callie’s first volleyball coach. Callie started at the YMCA in Adrian as an 8-year-old.
“My mom definitely spurred it in me,” she said. “I think I just had a knack for it.”
As she improved in volleyball, so did her playing opportunities. She joined a Toledo, Ohio, club program for the offseason and eventually began playing with Impact Volleyball Club out of Fort Wayne, Ind. It takes nearly two hours to get to Fort Wayne for practice three nights a week, but it’s been a great experience, Bauer said.
“It’s pretty far to drive,” she said. “But, it’s the coaches, honestly. It’s a small club, just two teams. Everyone drives that far to be a part of it. I’m not the only one. The girls there are so good.”
Most of the drives from Hudson to Fort Wayne are with her mother. Last season Bauer also played basketball in the winter, which made for some hectic nights. After school, she’d go to basketball practice, then jump in the car and head to Fort Wayne for volleyball. On most of those nights, she’d get home after 11:30 p.m., shower and start all over the next day.
Club volleyball also has produced a lot of family time for the Bauers. This past club season, the family tagged along on trips to Chicago, Louisville, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Florida.
“It’s a great time to be together,” said her father, Jim Bauer. “We just get all packed in the car and drive. It’s a lot of good family time. You look forward to it.”
Jim Bauer played basketball at Hillsdale College before jumping right into coaching. Between his years at Pittsford and Morenci, he accumulated more than 200 wins. His 2014-15 Morenci team made it to the Breslin Center and played for the Class D championship. He stepped away from coaching basketball a couple of years ago to be sure he didn’t miss out on watching Callie play.
Being brought up in a house with two coaches has been a good experience, Callie said.
“When I first started, they would get on me more,” she said. “Now they are just supporters. I get my competitiveness from them. But, I’m hard enough on myself. I’m my own worst critic. They don’t need to be hard on me.”
It’s hard to find too much fault in Bauer’s game. This month she was named to an elite preseason All-American volleyball list.
“I was super happy about it and proud of it, but I kind of put it in the back of my mind,” she said.
Her dad said seeing her name on that list was special.
“I don’t think she realizes the magnitude of being on an ‘All-American’ list,” he said. “When I was a player, I couldn’t dream of making an All-American list. It’s amazing, really.”
Bauer isn’t worried about burning out of volleyball even though she plays year-round. When she feels herself getting to that point, she knows what to do.
“This past summer I had one of those experiences,” she said. “I was at a volleyball camp, where you eat and sleep volleyball the whole seven days. It was a lot. … When I get to that point, I take a step back and I don’t go into the gym for a week. I’ll go biking or painting or just do something else. I spend a lot of time doing volleyball, so I have to be careful.
“People ask me what I like to do in my free time, and I say, ‘free time?’”
Being committed to Western Kentucky – the second-winningest Division I program in the nation over the last 10 years – has taken some stress off Bauer’s shoulders.
“Now that I’m committed, club volleyball is less stressful for me. When you go to the tournaments, you see the college coaches on the sidelines and you think, ‘Oh boy, I hope they like me.’ Now that I have that secured and everything, I just play.
“I have a lot of work to do before I get there. I’m not going to step back. I’m probably going to get into the gym more now that I am committed. It’s a whole different mentality. It’s not so much just doing it for my high school team or club team or anything. I have something I can look to on the horizon. Two years from now I’m going to be playing against college teams. I’ve got to get ready. It’s another layer of motivation.”
Hudson is coming off a 38-win season but is younger this fall. As a two-year starter already, Bauer will be looked to by Tigers coach Shelly Hoard to be more of a leader.
“She’s continued to improve her game,” Hoard said. “She is definitely bringing a lot more leadership this year. She’s a great team member. Her whole understanding of the game, people’s roles and people’s capabilities and the opponent is better.
“She’s the real deal.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Hudson’s Callie Bauer, one of the state’s top juniors, fires a serve. (Middle) Bauer sets for a teammate during a match against Dundee. (Top photo by Matt Sisoler; middle courtesy of the Bauer family.)
Cadillac’s girls volleyball team is quite accustomed to getting flack from opposing teams’ student sections about their socks.
That’s not likely to continue much longer though, thanks to the Vikings’ performance on the court and major college teams becoming similarly equipped.
And their new warm-up shirts tell it all.
“My team has always worn knee socks,” said 23-year veteran Cadillac coach Michelle Brines. “So people will make fun of the team, or they’ll cheer ‘put your socks down’ and this kind of thing.
“This year we finally got shirts saying ‘Fear the Socks,’” she continued. “The knee socks were in back in the day, and we’ve always worn them.”
Now college powerhouse clubs like Texas and Nebraska wear knee socks. The Cornhuskers just went back to them last season — a year calumniating with an appearance in the national championship match. Nebraska and Texas regularly make runs to and beyond the NCAA Elite Eight.
Under Brines, Cadillac too is used to deep postseason runs including six MHSAA Semifinal appearances. The Vikings made their first appearance in the Division 2 Final last November, falling to North Branch.
Cadillac is off to a 17-3-2 start this fall preparing for Division 1 competition, as they moved into that division for this season. The Vikings have their sights on another Big North Conference championship too as they prepare for District play in Grand Haven at the end of October. Cadillac is 4-1 in league play.
The Vikings have been led again this year by all-state middle hitter Carissa Musta. The 6-foot-4 senior is handling the pressure well. Teams celebrating a block of Musta’s hit are quickly shaken off, according to Brines.
“It’s got to be tough when somebody gets all crazy because they just blocked you, but Carissa is very composed,” Brines said. “She never comes off the floor.
“She’s pretty darn good in the back row,” Brines continued. “I am very impressed with her growth and composure.”
Musta topped the 1,000-kill mark earlier this season and became the school’s career leader in blocks this week in a three-set win over Petoskey.
Senior Makenzie Johns, a 6-1 outside hitter, is also an offensive powerhouse for the Vikings. Senior setter Cassie Jenema comes through regularly with kills in addition to her strong defense and serving.
“We have 11 players on our team, and they all play an important role,” Brines noted. “Even though we have a few that really, really stand out, we are not going to be successful if we’re not all doing our job.”
The Vikings also regularly feature three sophomores: Ari Bryant, Grace Zubak and Sophia Clough. All three were on the freshman team last year because of the team’s depth.
Cadillac shared the Big North championship last year with Traverse City Central. They both suffered home losses to each other but picked up road wins. That trend has continued this year as Central handed Cadillac its lone league loss in five sets on the Vikings’ court. They will play again Oct. 4 in Traverse City.
Brines is pleased with her team’s progress at midseason. The Vikings host Alpena on Wednesday and then battle in the Portage Invitational.
“I have never had a season moving people around as much as I have,” Brines said. “I expect to see a lot of growth out of my team as we go into the second half of the season.”
Brines hopes the Vikings will make a run to the Final again this fall so she can become accustomed to a new routine.
“We finally broke through and won that (Friday Semifinal) night game and got to play the next day, which had never happened,” Brines recalled. “I didn’t really know what to do because usually I was going out for dinner with my team because we lost.”
The knee socks are the Vikings' signature also at the freshman and junior varsity levels. “We have all of our levels wear them — it is kind of our thing,” Brines pointed out. “When we walk in we have knee socks, people know we’re Cadillac.
“It’s kind of fun,” she continued. “I am old school.”
Crew socks are allowed in practice, however. Brines and the Vikings seriously considered getting away from their long-standing tradition.
“I used to make them wear them in practice,” Brines said. “One of my players that went on to coach some college and be a head coach herself said ‘Coach, you can’t do (stop wearing them) because that’s what you kind of always done and nobody else wears knee socks.’”
A spokesperson for Nebraska said there’s no real reason Nebraska went back to wearing long socks beyond player preference, and that it seems like that trend is coming back in volleyball.
“Very cool,” Brines said with a smile when she learned of the Cornhuskers response. “So basically, we never went out of style.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Cadillac's McKenzie Johns unloads on an attempt during a match. (Middle) Cassie Jenema sets for a teammate during a match. (Below) Ari Bryant keeps the ball in play. (Photos by Marc Vieau/Cadillac News).